One of the most competitive races on a Jacksonville ballot Tuesday: HD 14’s Democratic two-way between challenger Paula Wright and incumbent Kim Daniels.
Notable: this is an open primary, so Republicans and NPAs can vote — and on both sides, GOP donors are expressing preferences.
Wright, backed by establishment Democrats (Sen. Audrey Gibson, state Rep. Tracie Davis, and Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis and candidates like Congressional hopeful Ges Selmont), surged in fundraising between Aug. 11 and Aug. 23.
Her $12,829 raised was her best haul of the campaign for any reporting period, with Republican donors weighing in, including J.B. Coxwell and former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton‘s Gate Petroleum.
Democrats ponied up too. Selmont gave, as did Duval County School Board member Becki Couch (who backs Republican Joseph Hogan in HD 15), and Jacksonville Sheriff’s candidate Tony Cummings.
Wright carried roughly $12,000 after the 8/23 filing, even after buying radio time on a local gospel station. It remains to be seen how she will deploy that money in the closing days.
Daniels, who has had her share of scandals and apostasies from Democratic orthodoxy, is seen as beatable by those close to Wright. The key to victory is educating voters on Daniels’ true positions, per one push poll we’ve seen. The final count on Aug. 28 will speak to the viability of that strategy.
Key to such an information campaign: the $40,000 that went into the New Direction Now political committee, $15,000 of that from the Wright-friendly Florida Education Association, and much of the rest from trial lawyers. This committee has put Wright on TV.
Daniels, who seemed to be running a diffident campaign, started working at the end — and the checks came in, especially from Republican social conservatives.
Daniels raised $13,550 between Aug. 11 and 23, with GOP money coming in from Mayor Lenny Curry backer Tom Petway, Empower Jacksonville (the group looking to rollback Jacksonville LGBT protections), three subsidiaries of the Vestcor Companies, and Virginia Soud.
Daniels, as has been the case throughout the campaign, has gone light on ad spends, though she did spend $1,000 on an ad in the Florida Star — notable for running a vicious piece against Wright weeks back that Wright said was libel.
Meanwhile, district residents have purported to receive a robocall slamming Wright, hitting many of the same themes in that Star piece.
HD 14’s primary in 2016 was uglier than bowling shoes, and this year’s iteration is the same.